Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 47

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 47


  • At the end of an alley near the Thames River, David sees Martha going into a run-down wooden building.
  • The neighborhood is grimy, dark, and empty.
  • David signals to Mr. Peggotty to stay where he is.
  • Martha looks wild as she stands muttering to herself.
  • David touches her arm and calls her name.
  • Martha screams and babbles: she compares herself to the river, which starts clean but then flows into the dirty city.
  • David and Mr. Peggotty wait for Martha to calm down.
  • Finally, David asks if Martha recognizes him and Mr. Peggotty.
  • She does.
  • David wants to know if Martha can talk of Emily.
  • Martha begs David to tell Mr. Peggotty that what happened to Emily wasn't her fault.
  • If it had been her fault, she would have thrown herself into the Thames a long time ago.
  • David assures Martha that they know Martha had nothing to do with Emily running away.
  • Martha knows that she is corrupt, and that Emily was never anything but kind to Martha. It pains Martha to know that the people of the village might think Martha brought Emily down, she who owed Emily so much.
  • Martha asks how she can go on as she is, a living disgrace.
  • Mr. Peggotty addresses Martha directly, and tells her that he will never judge her.
  • He assures Martha that Emily is dearer to him now than she was before.
  • Still, Mr. Peggotty knows that Emily would never doubt his love for her. If Emily is hiding from Mr. Peggotty, it is because of shame.
  • David and Mr. Peggotty both agree that Emily will probably wind up in London.
  • Mr. Peggotty asks Martha to help them find Emily.
  • Martha asks if Mr. Peggotty will trust her to bring Emily to him if she ever finds her?
  • David and Mr. Peggotty both say they do trust her.
  • Martha promises that she will do this task faithfully.
  • David tells Martha everything they know so far about Emily's movements since she ran away.
  • He writes down his and Mr. Peggotty's addresses so that she can get in touch if she hears any news.
  • David tries to offer Martha some money, but she will absolutely not accept.
  • Martha refuses the money because she worries that, if she accepts money, they will trust her less.
  • She is honored to be trusted again for the first time in so long.
  • Martha touches Mr. Peggotty briefly and then goes on her way.
  • David arrives home at around midnight.
  • He sees that his aunt's cottage is lit up, and he goes to see if anything is the matter.
  • David is shocked to see a man standing in her yard.
  • The man is eating and drinking as though he is starving.
  • Miss Betsey comes out and presses some money into his hand.
  • The man tells her it's not enough for him to go.
  • Miss Betsey asks how he can be so cruel to her, when she can spare him nothing else?
  • The man tells her that he has grown shabby and pathetic.
  • Miss Betsey replies that he has taken most of her money and treated her cruelly. How can he be such a jerk now?
  • The man goes off, looking annoyed.
  • He and David pass each other, and David asks his aunt why this man has been bothering her.
  • Miss Betsey brings David inside and tells him not to speak to her for a little while.
  • After sitting quietly for a bit, Miss Betsey comes out and says that that man is her husband.
  • He is not dead at all; he's just dead to Miss Betsey.
  • David is totally amazed.
  • Miss Betsey tells David that she loved that man completely, and that he stole her fortune and broke her heart.
  • That's why she has buried all that kind of feeling forever.
  • Apparently, she left him with a fair amount of money which he gambled away; he also married another woman and turned into a cheat.
  • Now and again, he still turns up, and she pays him to go away.
  • Miss Betsey says that now David knows her whole story, and she wants to keep it between them.

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